The unequivocal answer is “no.” Under North Carolina law, child support and visitation are separate matters and a parent’s failure to pay child support is not a legal justification to deny or suspend visitation. Likewise, a parent who is being denied visitation with their child is not entitled to discontinue paying child support.
If you are the parent receiving child support, it may be tempting to want to punish the non-supporting parent by withholding their visitation with the child, but refusing to allow the other parent to exercise visitation rights is likely to make matters worse.
First of all, by denying the child the opportunity to visit with the other parent, you are punishing the child. You are also using the child as a tool to attempt to manipulate or coerce the other parent into paying child support. Judges tend to frown on this type of behavior.
If you are withholding parental visitation that has been court ordered, then you are violating a court order and putting yourself in a position to be held in contempt of court. A finding of contempt of court has its own serious consequences depending upon whether you are found in civil contempt or criminal contempt.
Perhaps most importantly, the court may determine that your actions in withholding or interfering with visitation have been contrary to the best interests of the child. This could provide a basis for the court to award custody of the child to the other parent.
Moreover, recent studies suggest that the more involved a parent is in his/her child’s life, the more likely that parent is to pay child support and fulfill financial obligations. Denying visitation may create more hostility that will make the other parent more resistant to paying child support.
If you have other reasons (besides failure to pay child support) to believe that a custody or visitation arrangement should be modified, we recommend that you discuss the matter with an experienced family law attorney before taking any unilateral actions.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.